Georgetown breeder 2-for-2 with success stories at Keeneland sale

A Bernardini colt, ushered into the ring by handler Cordell Anderson, sold for $625,000 Wednesday.
A Bernardini colt, ushered into the ring by handler Cordell Anderson, sold for $625,000 Wednesday. photos by Z

Catherine Parke had a grand total of two horses in her Valkyre Stud consignment for the Book 2 portion of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

They ended up being two of the more memorable horses to go through the ring in what has been a wildly successful auction in the first four of its 13 days.

Twenty-four hours after hitting a personal home run when she sold a Bernardini filly to Ben Leon for $1.2 million, Parke scored again Wednesday when a handsome son of Bernardini from her consignment went to John Ferguson, agent for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, for $625,000.

Just as the September sale is yielding double-digit gains, Parke has produced enviable results.

She co-bred the $1.2 million filly with Darley, and she consigned Wednesday's offering on behalf of Oakbrook Farm. Out of the Cryptoclearance mare Ava Knowsthecode, the dark bay Bernardini colt that went to Ferguson is a half-brother to graded-stakes winners Keyed Entry, Justin Phillip and Successful Mission.

"They were two beautifully presented horses, and I'm delighted she's being rewarded," Ferguson said of Parke. "People outside the business don't realize how hard it is to produce horses like that."

At her farm in Georgetown, Parke has four mares of her own and boards about 40 mares for clients.

"We're pretty overwhelmed; it's just been awesome," Parke said of the sales. "This allows me to buy another broodmare and invest in the business ... and I'll keep investing."

But Parke also expressed concern for smaller breeders like her, given the ongoing trend of mares leaving the state.

"Unfortunately, our state government hasn't recognized the serious problem with our industry, and the mares are leaving Kentucky and going to Pennsylvania and Louisiana and New York now," she said. "The purse structures are better at other racetracks and other state programs. What's holding our industry together is simply our sire power here."

The power of up-and-coming sire Tapit was demonstrated Wednesday when a chestnut colt by the Grade I winner topped the session at $650,000.

California-based owners Jon and Sarah Kelly prevailed in the bidding for the colt, who was bred and consigned by Gainesway and is a full brother to graded stakes winner Hightap.

"We love Tapit, (the colt's) conformation was excellent ... and my wife wanted him," Jon Kelly said, laughing. "He'll stay here in Kentucky and then decide which trainer he'll go to."

The Tapit colt was one of many highlights in Wednesday's session, which produced substantial gains compared to 2010 to keep the September auction well ahead of last year's pace.

The overall gross of $111,176,000 is up 16.47 percent from 2010, and the average ($204,368) and median ($170,000) have improved by 12.83 percent and 41.67 percent, respectively.

Although the rate of horses not sold was running high at 32.32 percent after the first session, the figure is at 27.47 percent after four days, compared with 32.26 at this time last year.

"Consignors are much more realistic with selling their horses first and not getting a home run," Ferguson said. "If you get the home run great, but the first thing you have to do is be aware you need to sell your horses."